The Best Gift
“Adam was pleased. Not even Christmas and we have presents. I wonder what it can be!”
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
I dream of the gift of world peace and the end of hunger. I wish for more kindness. An end to the relentless scramble to be better than, to have more. A time to be happy. If just for a moment, to pause, and be pleased with our lives. It is possible, especially if you give the best gift of all. The gift can be expensive and it takes time too. It was for me.
It came in huge fits and rude tiny pieces. I wanted all black and white. I had forgotten about the light that filters through the camera lens, the shadows and the brights. It must be right. Or it must be wrong. And although that may be true, there is more. To carry the weight of the wrong, to fill up on the smugness of right makes a very heavy load. The load becomes a burden. It is so heavy, it is all that we can carry. It grows to define us and this is what we become. Take time, learn to let it go. Forgive yourself and then others. Only then can peace and joy fill your life. This holiday season give the best gift of all—forgiveness.
Christmas came too fast this year. I wanted time. My mom’s birthday would have been on December 3rd. I am learning to be without her. One of the many things she loved about Christmas was cookies. We always made her favorites and when they were finished I could try as many new cookie recipes as I wanted! While I baked new cookie recipes she made candy. I find myself quoting my mother, “ You can never have too many cookies at Christmas.” I’m not sure if that’s the best cookie philosophy but it is a tremendous amount of fun.
When we head north along the coast, we drive through Santa Cruz. On the way out of town I like to stop at Companion Bakeshop and pick up an assortment of cookies and a loaf of their fabulous bread. On the last trip I tried their Rosemary Shortbread. I wasn’t sure I would like the woodsy rosemary paired with the buttery sweet shortbread. But the cookie melted in my mouth with just enough fragrant rosemary to temper the richness of the cookie. I wished I had more of these stellar cookies. When I saw this post I knew I was destined to make my own Rosemary Shortbread.
This is a buttery cookie, as shortbread will be, but not an intensely rich confection. A forest of these cookies can fill a holiday cookie jar or would be fantastic served with wine and cheese. I used the Scotch Shortbread recipe from my Fannie Farmer Baking Book, adding fresh rosemary and making holiday trees. Don’t be tempted to add more fresh rosemary, its intoxicating natural oil will overwhelm the buttery, sweet balance in this irresistible shortbread. Finely mince the rosemary, so that no large pieces will surprise those that are fortunate enough to try these gems. The cooled cookies can be dusted with powered sugar for a snowy finish.
|1C||unsalted butter, softened|
|1T||finely minced fresh rosemary|
|1/2t||fine grain sea salt|
|3-4||woody stems from fresh rosemary|
|12||dried cranberries or cherries|
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until it is creamy and light yellow. Add the powdered sugar (sift if lumpy), vanilla and rosemary and mix to throughly combine. Stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixer bowl. Add the flour and salt and mix again. Stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixer bowl, making sure the dough is throughly mixed. Transfer the dough to a piece of plastic wrap. Flatten into a rectangular shape and chill for one hour.
- Heat the oven to 350°. Line two cookie sheets with parchment. Cut the rosemary stems into half inch lengths for the tree trunks. Snip the dried cranberries into thirds or the dried cherries into quarters to use as tree toppers.
- On a lightly floured surface roll the chilled dough into a rectangle that is 5 inches wide and 14 inches long. Square the corners using a bench scrapper or ruler to push the dough into shape. Cut the dough in half lengthwise, making two long 14 inch strips that are 2-1/2 inches wide. With a bench scraper or metal spatula nudge one strip away from the other to make room to cut the tree shapes. On one side of the 14 inch strip mark 2 inch increments at the very edge of the dough. On the other side of the 14 inch strip make a one inch mark, then continue with 2 inch increments at the very edge of the dough. Dust a knife blade with flour and then cut triangular shapes using the marking on the edge of the strip of dough. Starting at one edge of the strip, cut from the one inch mark toward the first 2 inch mark. Continue cutting in this manner until the entire strip is a series of triangles. Repeat with the second strip of dough. Nudge the cookies apart with a bench scraper or spatula. To make the tree topper lightly hold the peak of the triangle with two fingers and press the cranberry piece into the dough. Push the rosemary stem into the bottom of the cookie to make the tree trunk. Dock the cookies with the tines of a fork, if desired. Transfer the cookies to the prepared cookie sheets using a spatula. Although the cookies don’t spread when baking, leave an inch between them for even baking.
- Bake the cookies for 13-16 minutes, until the edges just begin to brown. Do not over bake. Transfer to a rack to finish cooling.
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